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Scotland will be hoping to take Euro 2020 by storm
Scotland will be hoping to take Euro 2020 by storm

It has been 23 years in the making but Scotland are finally heading back to a major tournament.

Not only will Euro 2020 be the first international showpiece for the Scots since 1998, they have been rewarded with a clash against the Auld Enemy at Wembley.

That England encounter is sandwiched between tough games against the Czech Republic and Croatia, meaning qualification looks a tall order for Steve Clarke's men.

Yet with the support of the Tartan Army behind them, Scotland will be hoping they can defy the odds and make it through to the knockout phase.

Background

Advancing from Group D looks tough based on the opposition Scotland have to overcome — and history is also against them.

This will be their third appearance at a European Championship after successfully qualifying for both the 1992 and 1996 editions.

But they are yet to progress beyond the group stage of any major tournament, including the eight occasions in which they have reached the World Cup finals.

However, Scotland will benefit from a reasonable home advantage this time around as both fixtures either side of their trip to Wembley are taking place at Hampden Park.

How they qualified

Finishing third in Group I was not enought to achieve qualification.

But the Scots were still able to participate in the play-offs after winning a Nations League group containing Israel and Albania.

Clarke’s side had to face Israel again in the semi-finals, where a tight goalless draw was settled by penalties.

It was a similar story in the final. Scotland looked to be on the verge of a 1-0 win over Serbia, only for Luka Jovic to pop up with a 90th-minute heartbreaking equaliser.

But that strike ultimately proved futile as David Marshall’s penalty save from Aleksandar Mitrovic in the resulting shootout sealed progression to the finals in dramatic and emotional fashion.

The line-up

Scotland have two fantastic left-sided options in Kieran Tierney and Andy Robertson
Scotland have two fantastic left-sided options in Kieran Tierney and Andy Robertson

Remaining defensively robust could be key to securing positive results against difficult opposition, so it is likely Clarke will stick to a variation of his favoured three at the back. 

That system also means there are places for most of the squad’s key players in the starting line-up. 

If he was using a traditional back four, Clarke would face a headache trying to choose between Kieran Tierney and Andy Robertson at left-back.

While Scott McTominay has emerged as an able right-sided centre-back, injuries to Ryan Jack and Kenny McLean mean he will likely be used in midfield alongside John McGinn and Callum McGregor.

Clarke can also call upon Ryan Fraser and Che Adams, who recently switched allegiance from England, making this one of Scotland’s strongest sides for a number of years.

Predicted line-up: Marshall; Hendry, Hanley, Tierney; O’Donnell, McTominay, McGinn, McGregor, Robertson; Christie, Adams.

Star man: Andy Robertson

Having lifted both the Champions League and Premier League trophies across the last three seasons, Robertson brings a winning mentality to the squad.

The Scotland captain, 27, was a constant danger from both set-pieces and open play for Liverpool in 2020-21, finishing inside the English top flight's top 10 players for expected assists (xA) with 6.9 for the campaign.

Without the ball, he is fiercely aggressive and a student of Jurgen Klopp’s high-octane philosophy — traits that will hopefully rub off on his team-mates at Euro 2020. 

Up-and-comer: Billy Gilmour

Could Billy Gilmour be Scotland's secret weapon at Euro 2020?
Could Billy Gilmour be Scotland's secret weapon at Euro 2020?

Billy Gilmour, who turns 20 just three days before Scotland's first game at the tournament, said it was "the stuff of dreams" to have earned a first Scotland call-up.

It was something of a shock to see his inclusion in the 26-man squad, particularly given he played just 698 minutes of senior competitive action for Chelsea in 2020-21.

But the teenager has still been able to illustrate why he is such a highly-rated prospect and Clarke threw him on for his debut in the 2-2 draw with the Netherlands on Wednesday night.

He has a tactical understanding way beyond his years and is great at finding pockets of space in the congested central areas of the pitch.

His impressive technical skills mean he can take clever progressive touches to evade pressure from opposition players, while he is also capable of playing a wide range of highly accurate long and short passes.

The boss: Steve Clarke

Although Clarke has coached in different capacities at Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle, it was his achievement of guiding Kilmarnock into Europe in 2019 that secured him the national team post.

Since taking that position, he has made them a tough side to beat and restored a sense of pride in playing for Scotland.

If he can somehow mastermind safe passage to the competition’s latter stages, the 57-year-old would propel himself to hero status in the eyes of his countrymen.

All information correct as of midday, June 3, 2021

Tags

ScotlandEuropean Championship

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